Hello again! My name is Midol, and this is my second column for Oasis. I'm supposed to write about this thing called "queercore", and I will, but...
I will also write about anything related to cool queers making vital music. Goodness, this is a lot of territory to cover!
Last month I wrote a primer of sorts on the origins of the term "queercore" and the evolution of some of our favorite queercore bands. If you don't know what I'm referring to, check out my last column. If you haven't heard about this exciting new movement, don't be alarmed. So much of the greatest things that happen never get covered in magazines and television, especially queer stuff. It doesn't mean that it doesn't exist - it just means that it just takes more effort to find it. And you have found it.
Since there's so much ground to cover, I decided that I would spend this column talking more about some of the awesome bands that exist, what recordings they have done, and where you can get them. In following columns, I hope to be able to review things as they happen. But first, we've got some catching up to do!
Before I get into the nitty-gritty on the bands, I wanted to give you a little background info on underground music. Like I mentioned in the third paragraph, there's so, so, so much stuff that's being created out there that you may never hear about. There's plenty of reasons for that, like economic, social and political reasons, and more. The underground music and press culture has been around forever. Often times, it bubbles up to the surface where you experience it just like everything else. You may not even know that it existed for years before anyone thought it was important enough to draw attention to. This is quite normal. Then there are people that are more concerned with expressing themselves and communicating to like-minded individuals who appreciate them, rather than integrate into the larger framework of society. That's what's called the "underground", and without trying to define it further, I'll leave it at that.
There are as many underground scenes as there are groups of people - innumerable. And even among music, there are just too many to keep track of. Even something like hip hop, or rock, or even queercore has many different people contributing, creating, and defining it. The difference between this sort of thing and what you hear on your radio or TV is that underground culture is a "hands-on" thing. You can "DIY" or do-it-yourself and be able to have other people hear you and take you seriously. That's pretty darn cool. Queercore is by fans, for fans. Most likely, the queercore records you buy or the queercore magazines (or zines) you read are made by individuals just like you, with a little elbow grease and inspiration. You are not a number to be sold to - you are a peer. There are young people running queercore record labels out of their bedrooms, working minimum wage jobs. There are kids putting out their own publications in the middle of the night at your neighborhood Kinko's. There are people who have never taken a music lesson in their lives playing incredible music and playing for their friends. There are kids with hopes and dreams making it into reality. You can be a part of it.
Most of these bands are made up of young people like you, or at least were younger when they started. Some are teens, and some are even in their thirties, but it seems pretty obvious when you hear them that they're all young at heart. Some are obnoxious, some are introspective, some are angry, and some like to celebrate. There's no doubt in my mind that if there isn't a band for you here, there will be someday.
You can order their recordings through the mail, or at your local record store. Many of these bands are on record labels that have home pages that you can browse. I've included those links. Also, because of the underground nature of the music, someone forgot to tell them that vinyl records hardly exist anymore. These bands still put out their records on vinyl, often times on those little 45 rpm ones (referred to as 7"s) exclusively. While most of the vital stuff eventually makes its way onto an available tape or CD, much of the newest and best music can be only found on 7" vinyl records. If you're really serious about experiencing some innovative and cutting-edge music, perhaps it's time to dust off your parents' old phonograph, or maybe you should scope out local yard sales. Otherwise, there's still plenty of music that's ready to be heard on good old cassettes and compact discs. You really oughtta check it out. You'll be glad that you did.
Bands come and bands go, sometimes even before you knew they existed. Thankfully, some have left behind a CD or something to prove that they were real. So, even if the band is no more, you can pretend that they are still around, and crank it up in your bedroom as if you were watching them play in front of you. And of course, some of these bands even tour. That's a whole other topic. Let's begin with some of the most incredible fuckin' bands I've ever heard...
They're a band. Five women, err, lesbians, err, I mean, DYKES. Dykes with hard-assed guitars. Dykes with right-on angry lyrics and vicious humor. Dykes who aren't afraid to go topless at their shows. Dykes who take no shit from nobody. They go where no dyke has gone before. And they're really cute, too! Ever read Hothead Paisan comics? Well, put those down - these gals are flesh and blood, the musical equivalent to a bulldyke in a china shop. They're from San Francisco (well, no one is actually from there, but they live there) and formed in '91. They have toured numerous times, just in their own van (like Thelma and Louise, only less bloodshed) and released several mandatory albums. Their first CD is called "By the Time We Get To Colorado" (Outpunk), the title a tribute to the Public Enemy song of a similar name and theme, sorta. It has six rockin' songs about Jesse Helms, wayward girlfriends, lesbophobic women, and pissing off our uptight queer brothers and sisters. There's also their full-length album "Fist City" (Alternative Tentacles) that came out last year. Boy oh boy, it's an amazing experience! Fifteen whopping songs, including some of their oldest favorites and many new instant classics. They even cover Aretha Franklin's "Think", which just feels so right being played with loud guitars and singer Lynn Breedlove's fierce growls. No queercore collection would be complete without it. While you're at it, be sure to get their newest EP "Roadkill Cafe" (Alternative Tentacles), with two new songs, an oldie, and a cover of that crazy 70's rock classic, "Radar Love". Buy, buy, buy. New album out this year, I hear!
Many of you may have already heard of them. They're not nearly as hard as Tribe 8 (and who is?), but thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking. Lots of people just like to laugh at their lyrics, which are about graphic gay sex and paying homage to our favorite musical heroes. But somewhere in the middle, they manage to write songs about lost boyfriends, being queer in the middle of nowhere, being in love, and just ordinary fag stuff. If you know a little about them, it's probably because of the fact that our gay-positive rock stars Green Day decided that Pansy Division were cool enough to open for their first huge concert tour. You can imagine how the self-described "Butt Fuckers Of Rock and Roll" went over with the crowds - they loved them! They have three CD's/cassettes that you can (and really should) get, including one called "Pile Up" (Lookout) that collects all of their songs off of those funny little 7" records. Their first and second albums "Undressed" and "Deflowered" will have you on the floor in laughter, or at the very least provide you with great music for your next party. It's hard not to like a band that sings songs called "Smells Like Queer Spirit" and "Groovy Underwear", as well as the old tearjerkers like "Boyfriend Wanted" and "Deep Water". Look for a new album really soon (like, right now) called "Wish I'd Taken Pictures" and a new single in the summer dedicated to our favorite metalheads Judas Priest and Kiss! Gotta love these guys. Pansy Division, that is.
They don't take the road that everyone else does - that would be too easy. So this dual-gender bisexual-led group from New York City makes up its own territory as it goes. Borrowing from jump-rope rhymes, Yiddish folk music and thrash punk, they churn out some of the most zany, unique music around. In the meantime, they cover everything from having a crush on your best friend, to Batgirl, to your favorite kiddie rhymes, in English, German, French, Japanese, Icelandic, Finnish and too many languages for me to keep track of. If you think that last sentence was a mouthful, then check out any one of their eight or nine albums. Each album has at least 25 songs on it, many tunes as short as 20 seconds! It's hard to get bored of anything that goes by that quick. Anything but boring, Godco (for short) takes an educational perspective on feminism and being queer, with riddles and observations rather than strict dogma or alienating gayspeak. Neat-o albums include "Straight Not", "Puss O2", "How To Be", and several more. Try it, you'll like it!
How many girls are in love with this band? Raise your hands... no, wait, put them back on that keyboard! Taking the name of guitarist and girl rock icon Donna Dresch, they can pop and go and rock you in between like only the dykes can. Kaia's soft voice can turn to a screech in just a second, and there's nothing you can do but be kidnapped into Team Dresch's world. On their album "Personal Best" (Chainsaw/Candy Ass), they do great songs like "She's Crushing My Mind" and "Fagetarian and Dyke", complemented by what must be described as the cutest record cover of sportsdykes ever. Maybe the only one ever. They also coordinated a record and tour called "Free To Fight" (see compilation albums below) that teaches girls and women self-defense and self-respect. How many concerts have you been to that were like that? They also have one of those odd little 7" vinyl things out (Kill Rock Stars) with three songs, and a new album (called "Captain My Captain") out this spring! If you get the chance, you can even see them play. Check out the Chainsaw site for more info.
Toronto's homocore pioneers were way ahead of their time. GB Jones published her own zines like JD's, and more recently, Double Bill, while giving this group a wild reputation. Updating the 60's girl group with a decidedly fresh 90's bad attitude, female independence was never quite like this. With several albums to their credit like "To Sir With Hate" and "All-Time Queen of the World", the queercore movement set the stage for their modern-day anthem, "All Women Are Bitches". Proud to be the founding members of their own organization, "Bitch Nation", Fifth Column finally gave us their all (including the aforementioned song) on their third album, "36C" (K Records) released last year. Known for their acidic humor and non-conformity, Fifth Column reminds you of what queercore's all about.
In the meantime, while people in the US were paying attention to local bands, Sister George was trailblazing all on their own. Two women and two men formed a band seemingly out of nowhere, and the British queercore movement was born. In fact, the term "queercore" should rightfully be credited to them. Spurred on by the Riot Grrrl movement in the UK, they were also reacting against the failure of gay culture to respond to its own sexism, racism, classism, and exclusionary nature. Sister George envisioned a music scene that tried to remedy this and provide young folks with viable alternatives. To say that they were entirely concerned with a creating a community would be inaccurate, though. They hated the idea of "lifestyles", of phony political platforms, of anything to do with a nice, normal "healthy gay lifestyle". Sister George thrived on controversy and conflict. Unfortunately, they broke up last year to form new projects. But, they left behind what will be looked on as a classic queercore masterpiece called "Drag King" (Outpunk), their only recorded output. Eight songs of pure bile, from the gender defiance of "Handle Bar" to the alarming female HIV warning "Virus Envy". Fragile or confused persons needing kinder, gentler music should look elsewhere - this is a challenging, cathartic and fully charged record. I wouldn't have it any other way!
Everyone who hears their name is like, "what a dumb name!". And I must admit that it's not the catchiest, nor does it do justice to this awesome band. Mukilteo is a town in Washington state. There is a ferry boat there. Therefore, Mukilteo + Ferries = Mukilteo Fairies. And don't let their name fool you - they were 110% hard-assed queer hardcore, loud and very fast. Lead singer Josh is a spastic bundle of energy, leaping into the crowd and singing in their faces. Every song, filled with Josh's anger and angst about closet-cased boys, hostile straights, and whoever happened to be pissing him off that week. But now for the bummer news - they broke up in the summer of '94, after only a year of existence. They put out several of those 7" vinyl singles, and appeared on compilations on Outpunk, Kill Rock Stars, and Yo Yo Recordings. If you're feeling adventurous, then you can still track down those records. I talked to Matt at Outpunk, and he says that they are going to release all the Mukilteo Fairies songs ever recorded on one CD sometime this year. Also coming up is a new band made up of two ex-Mukilteo Fairies called "Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live". They have a single out and an album coming up as well. This looks way promising.
A historic document of four female bands from 1992, now released on CD and tape - this is a must have. Bikini Kill, Seven Year Bitch, Tribe 8 and the Lucy Stoners all give one great song from different perspectives. I can't do this disc justice - from Bikini Kill's tale of childhood abuse ("Suck My Left One") to Tribe 8's sarcastic S and M tune "Manipulate". The best part is that it's a benefit for battered women's shelters, so you know you just gotta get it.
Outpunk's big queercore compilation that came out in 1994 still sounds great today. Eleven bands who fall all over the sonic map, from the blistering Mukilteo Fairies to the glam of the Hyperdrive Kittens' "Rock and Roll Drag Queen", and CWA's lesbo keyboard rap of "Chickenhawk" - there's something here for everybody. Everybody except for house music fans - the intro on this record makes it's own editorial statement about this sort of music. But don't let that stop you from trying this on for size - it's proof positive that there's a huge queercore scene out there that's just around the corner from where you live.
A vital project made up of women, playing all kinds of music, interspersed with bits on how to learn self-defense and protect yourself. From Third Sex's "Monster Snack" to rapper 151's "Real Defense", you learn pretty quickly that this is for real. Listen to the great tunes and interact with the self-defense tutorial between songs - it's better than any exercise record I've ever heard. Accompanying the CD is also a great booklet filled with all kinds of contributions from women, from all kinds of perspectives. It's probably the most important record that some people will ever hear. On Candy Ass Records.
Online music ordering services
I chose these albums because they're the most popular and readily-available of queercore releases. You should be able to get them at most good mom and pop record stores. If you don't see them, ask for these titles by name. I'm almost positive that they can special order just about anything.
Another thing you could try is an online music store. I shopped in one once and was pretty impressed. There are at least nine different ones on the web, so you may just wanna try them on your own. The thing I did was called "Bargain Finder". You type in the title or artist and they search all online music stores for you for the best price and availability. Prices are OK, but one thing that you need to know is that they ask for a credit card. Aside from online security concerns, many of you may not have access to the wide world of Visa. In any case, they may also do COD, so give them a shot. The service is free, at least.
That about wraps it up for this time - I'm outta breath and my fingers are tired (from typing). Next column I hope to leap back into 1996- wish me luck!
links for bands....
Sister George; Pansy Division; Tribe 8; God Is My Co-Pilot; Fifth Column; Team Dresch; Mukilteo Fairies; Outpunk fanzine; Holy Titclamps Queer Zine Explosion
other cool bands/records
Tiger Trap; Bikini Kill; Bratmobile; Heavens to Betsy; Sleater-Kinney; Cub; Chumbawamba; Kicking Giant; Phranc; The Third Sex; Sta-Prest; Skunk Anansie